dlowan wrote:joefromchicago wrote:dlowan wrote:However, the people who DO work effectively with Ragses here strongly advocate assisting them with sleeping, eating and food when they wish - and making rehab available - but respecting their decisions as to whether they take them up or not. Interestingly, that is where government policy in my state is going re homeless folk - similarly to harm minimization strategies re drugs.
I suppose they take the same approach with people who suffer from all other potentially fatal diseases?
Well, they do not chase people down the street with medicines and lifestyle changes, but these are offered to them - pretty much how homelessness and alcoholism is treated, yes. What are you saying should be their approach? What is you rpoint? (Even if we accept the "disease model" for alcoholism.)
My point is that you are supporting a treatment model for alcoholism that, it seems, does not apply to other types of diseases that involve mental impairment. For instance, suppose that a person has Alzheimer's Disease.* Would you also say that we should make treatment available to him but respect his decision as to whether he takes it or not?
Even if we don't accept the "disease model" for alcoholism, we can, I think, recognize that alcohol is physically addictive. And for alcoholics, both the physical and psychological need for alcohol as well as its stupifying effects can seriously affect their judgment. Given that fact, it's a bit unusual to respect the judgment of alcoholics when we don't respect, in the same sense, the judgments of Alzheimer's patients, or those suffering from dementia, or children, or people who are otherwise impaired. In effect, you've set up two standards: one for alcoholics (whose judgment we respect) and one for all other persons suffering from diseases or other conditions that make their judgment unreliable or defective (whose judgment we don't respect). So why do we give alcoholics special consideration?
*EDIT: just to be clear, I'm talking about late-stage Alzheimer's, where the patient is no longer mentally competent.
May I ask you, Joe, what moved you to bring up this subject?
1) I have met alcoholics in my life, and I have met old demented people, though none of them were Alzheimer's patients. There is a world of difference between the judgment of alcoholics and that of demented people. Most alcoholics don't have their judgment impaired to a degree even remotely comparable to dementia. I think you greatly overestimate the importance of this special case for the decision to give or not to give a beggar money.
2) The argument from incompetence, insanity and dementia always cuts both ways. Sure, the beggar could be afflicted by either or all of them. But so could I! I could be withholding the money because I'm too dense to see the beggar's need for help, or because I'm a compulsive scrooge, or because I'm too demented to reach for my wallet. In either case, the beggar could use your argument, Joe, to justifiy not just begging me but robbing me. That strikes me as pretty radical. Do you have enough confidence in your argument to follow it to this conclusion?
I don't. I think the best default assumption for the case is that both sides are grown-up people who know what they're doing.
Yet there is certainly an argument to be made that Rich's action is immoral (as opposed to being merely bad for local businesses) to the extent that his action contributes to Rags's condition. After all, Rags is not simply getting a drink, he's an alcoholic beggar. I think we can safely say that, all things being equal, it is better not to be an alcoholic beggar than to be one. And if Rich's donation permits Rags to remain in his degraded condition, is that donation truly moral?
Look at it this way: if a suicidally despondent friend came up to you and asked to borrow your .45 caliber pistol -- and one bullet -- for a short while, would your act of lending him the weapon be beyond moral reproach, even if you had a strong suspicion that your friend would use the weapon to kill himself? Would you have no responsibility once you handed the weapon over to your friend, on the argument that "it's your gun and his life?"
I belive Our Illinois Friend has specified that it is the judgment of the relative morality of Rich's actions which is in question here.
It's not so much a question of Rags's responsibility -- the hypothetical, remember, does not inquire into the morality or immorality of his actions. Rather, it is a question of Rich's responsibility. By giving his dollar to someone who, he can confidently predict, will use the money to perpetuate a potentially fatal condition (in this case, alcoholism), can Rich absolve himself of responsibility for that consequence by noting that what Rags does with the dollar is entirely up to him?
If he'd told me straight out that he wanted the money for booze, I'd have given him cash (25% of what I'd pay for his food nearest to where I'm approached).
Too judgmental? Too bossy? Moral? Immoral?
My cash, my rules.
If we know (and we almost certainly do here) that Rags will be worse off without the donation, I'd venture that by most conventional measures of morality, it is a moral act.
In this case you are offering this friend not a means by which to maintain his/her status quo (as in the Rags/Richs scenario) but release - from his/her point of view - from suffering in life, or the ultimate punishment one could inflict on oneself - death. Whether or not it is a moral act would depend upon whose morals we're judging this by.
To accept your comparison, one would have to contend that withholding money and assault are roughly comparable acts. Thus Rich withholds his donation from Rags because he believes Rags to be mentally incompetent, while Rags assaults Rich because he believes Rich to be mentally incompetent.
Thomas wrote:I don't. I think the best default assumption for the case is that both sides are grown-up people who know what they're doing.
You'd apply that same standard to all grown-ups in all voluntary transactions?
... and that he would give Rags money if only he were mentally competent, knew the relevant information, and wasn't an insufferable scrooge. The welfare state engages in comparable behavior all the time on behalf of the nation's beggars. It's called "taxation", and few people dispute its moral legitimacy.
Yes. I know this assumption is mistaken. But in your hypothetical, as in most cases in practice, I lack information to tell which way it is mistaken, so the best rule I can act on is to assume sanity and goodwill on each side of the transaction.
We're judging Rich's actions here. We can address the morality of the state's actions on another occasion.
Thomas wrote:Yes. I know this assumption is mistaken. But in your hypothetical, as in most cases in practice, I lack information to tell which way it is mistaken, so the best rule I can act on is to assume sanity and goodwill on each side of the transaction.
This is a fair rule for those situations where there is no relevant information regarding the actors. But the hypothetical posits that Rich has information to tell him whether Rags is to be trusted with the donation. Perhaps not conclusive information, but certainly sufficient information to form a reasonably reliable conclusion regarding Rags's mental state.
True Cereal. Still,however well-intentioned, isn't making a food choice for the beggar rather paternalistic, treating him or her
much as one would a child?